Improving Your Communication Ratio

My wife and I recently bought a new Chevrolet Traverse to replace the 14-year-old Hyundai she was driving.  Since that purchase, I find myself noticing all the other Traverses on the road. You’ve probably experienced the same thing.

You buy a new car and suddenly start noticing all the other cars of the same make. Did the number of Chevy Traverse’s on the road magically increase? Of course not. My perspective just changed.

The same thing can happen in our relationships, particularly on the negative side. You have a co-worker, a friend, or a family member that seems to talk too much, or always complains, or has a way of getting under your skin. Once you get that perspective in your head, your ability to see that person objectively diminishes. You see everything through the lens of that negative perspective. As a result, it’s harder to see their positive qualities and their successes.

Here’s where this is important…

Studies show that a healthy ratio of compliments to criticism is about 5-1.  For relationships to thrive, it’s best to share five positive comments or compliments for every negative or critical comment or observation you offer. Now the truth is, in order to grow, mature, and be our best, we need a healthy diet of both affirmation and constructive criticism.

If all you ever hear are words of praise and compliments, well, that feels really good. However, even plants need to be pruned to prosper.  That means cutting off some healthy branches in order for the plant to bear the most fruit. People too, grow best when they are challenged to deal with their weaknesses and shortcomings.

So being the leader who only doles out compliments is actually not as helpful as the leader willing to mix in the harder, corrective conversations with those words of praise and affirmation.

But for that person in your crosshairs, who gets your proverbial goat or bugs the snot out of you, it can be hard even to see the positives.  So while I am tempted to challenge you to work on your five-to-one compliment to critical ratio with everyone, let me suggest that you identify one person with whom you struggle. Work on getting your ratio up with just that one person.

Do it for the next few weeks, or however often you interact with them. I suspect by focusing on improving your positive to negative comment ratio with one difficult person will not only be more helpful to that one person, but it will also spill over to all your other relationships as well.

Also, by being intentional to find things to say positively to this person, you may find your constructive critical comments, when shared in a healthier ratio, will be more well-received. May you notice more of the good in others and more measured in your comments on their shortcomings.

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